Paterno family review shreds Freeh Report: Is JoePa’s family taking a step back?

Candles, flowers, cards, and other memorable make a make shit memorial at the statue of former Penn State Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

On Sunday, the report commissioned by the family of the late Joe Paterno was finally made public. The report was a direct response to that commissioned by Penn State and undertaken by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh.

Freeh was hired on Nov. 21, 2011 and paid a handsome $6.5 million to put together a comprehensive, unbiased report on the handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Freeh was not only to look at how Sandusky’s immediate superior, Paterno, handled his alleged knowledge of Sandusky’s heinous crimes, but also the actions of former university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz.

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On July 12 of 2012, the Freeh Report was released and subsequently used by Penn State and the NCAA to then work towards a proper punishment for the school and to work towards moving past this unimaginable string of events. What resulted, however, was more than a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, numerous football scholarships taken away and the vacation of 112 victories between 1998 and 2011 — an action that knocked the 46-year coach of the Nittany Lions from 409 to 298 career wins and from No. 1 all-time to 12th.

What resulted was the thrashing of the legendary former coach’s good name. That was why, only four days after the Freeh Report’s release, the family of the legendary JoePa asked the law firm King and Spalding of Washington, D.C., to start “a comprehensive review of the report and Joe Paterno’s conduct. They authorized us to engage the preeminent experts in their field and to obtain their independent analyses.”

In spending several months putting together his 267-page report, Freeh interviewed more than 430 people and reviewed more than three million documents. However, following their review, the Paterno family reporters provided 10 conclusions as to why the Freeh Report was a ‘profound failure’, according to ESPN.

• No evidence exists that Paterno concealed critical information about Sandusky.

• Paterno, “based on a review of all available evidence, including discussions with attorneys representing Curley, Schultz and Spanier made no attempt to hide any information, hinder or impede any investigation or limit the number of people who were informed of” one the key incidents in the Sandusky scandal. In that 2001 incident, then-assistant coach Mike McQueary witnessed the assault of a boy in the shower by Sandusky and told Paterno about it the next day.

• No evidence exists that a desire to avoid bad publicity ever motivated Paterno.

• That the Freeh report “ignored decades of expert research and analysis of the appropriate way to understand and investigate a child sexual victimization case. Consequently, the Freeh report missed a tremendous opportunity to educate the public regarding the behavior of ‘nice-guy’ acquaintance child molesters.”

• Freeh’s investigators “produced a report that fit their expectations despite contrary evidence or a more reasonable interpretation.”

• The report was “oversold to the public, and Penn State officials, the NCAA and other bodies detrimentally relied upon it. The limitations of the investigation, which were numerous and defining, were not adequately explained or understood.”

• Sandusky was an exceptionally effective manipulator and deceiver … One of the most respected child sexual victimization experts in the world has concluded that Joe Paterno, like many others, did not recognize Jerry Sandusky as a child molester after the 2001 incident.”

• Freeh investigators’ access to vital documents and critical witnesses was severely limited. “These limitations, which were understated or ignored in the report, call into question the legitimacy of the entire report.”

• The Freeh report is “uniformly biased” against Paterno and its authors “ascribe motives to people they never met or interviewed and interpret ambiguous documents with a clarity and decisiveness that is impossible to justify.”

• One major flaw in the Freeh report is that it does not follow a typical standard of courtroom examinations and independent investigations — the consideration of a person’s lifetime record of “moral conduct and altruism.” It treats Paterno’s long life “as if it were irrelevant to the case.”

While, of course, taken at face value, several of these points may of course make sense. The fact that Paterno literally built a library on the Penn State campus speaks to the man’s altruistic lifestyle. So does the fact that he lived in a modest home right on campus, soaking in every possible moment of the Nittany Lion lifestyle he could.

It only helped his case when he admitted that, on national television, he should have done more to protect the children following the full exposure of Sandusky’s transgressions.

However, the Paterno family team chooses to grasp at straws rather than focus on the facts of the case. Their own bias towards the coach is evidenced in a number of ways.

First things first, their defense of the other men in question, Spanier, Curley and Schultz, is weak at best. And non-existent at worst.

To take an example the report itself uses as an example as to why the Freeh Report fails, the Paterno’s point to an email between Curley and Schultz. With a Subject Line of “Jerry,” Schultz is asked: “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.”

Freeh states that ‘Coach’ here is Paterno himself. However, the family takes the time and the effort to literally deconstruct that word, calling Freeh’s conclusion that ‘Coach’ relates to Paterno is a “fallacy” and “unsupported opinion”. They say that Freeh failed to directly confirm that ‘Coach’ was Paterno and could have even been Sandusky himself.

Not only is this nit-picky, but, well, it’s nit-picky.

If breaking down the word ‘Coach’ — especially where it so obviously pertains to Paterno and no one else — is how the entire Paterno legacy is supposed to be preserved, then obviously that legacy is in some serious trouble.

The fact of the matter here is that simple. Former assistant coach Mike McQueary saw Sandusky in the bathroom. McQueary then told Paterno, who then told Spanier and the others — only without any of the force he could and absolutely should have. With the wave of his hand, Paterno could have had Sandusky fired, disgraced, imprisoned, anything. Instead, McQueary was made to go about his business.

Did Paterno tell his superiors that Sandusky was making trouble? Yes. However, Happy Valley was never really run by Graham Spanier, it was run by Joe Paterno. He was never the old, slightly crotchety, slightly out-of-touch man his own family tried to make him out to be after the scandal blew up internationally.

He was the head football coach for a multi-million dollar program with a stadium that seats more than 100,000 people.

If the Paterno family is simply going to hoot and holler and pay some lawyers to type out a chunk of pages agreeing with everything they say, then they are in grave danger of having no one listen.

Because tragically, no one was listening to the cries of the children affected. It looks far more like the Paterno family cares more about their father than they do about the sexually abused young children.

While that may be fine for them, as they work to piece together the shattered legacy of their patriarch, the rest of the Penn State community and the nation works to move forward.

Past this dark blotch in college football history. Unfortunately, past Paterno.

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